Dialogic Teaching

thinking togetherWHAT THE ACADEMICS SAY

Thinking Together

If a teacher can demonstrate problem solving strategies to learners in a calm manner, they are sowing the seeds of effective ways of thinking.   Learning is a social process so classes can be organised in a way in which learners’ contributions are used to build common knowledge within the classroom but guided by the teacher.  The thinking together approach, created by Neil Mercer, Lyn Davies, Karen Littleton and Rupert Wegerif has been shown to improve communication in the classroom.  Here are some of their ideas which we have tried to see wotworks in the classroom.

Learners could use the thinking together talk tally to note the kind of talk they observe:


Learners could set ground rules for exploratory talk



Dialogic Teaching

An impassioned orator, Professor Robin Alexander champions the cause for both  teachers and learners, believing that it is input and process that enhances learning.  Although his main focus is on primary education, his work can be adapted and applied in any educational sector.   He has developed dialogic teaching and is currently working on a project aimed at closing the gap of social disadvantage.  It is possible that as teachers we miss the opportunity to develop deeper understanding for learners by not questioning appropriately in the classroom.  Dialogic teaching requires learners to justify their answers through probing and challenging what is discussed during a lesson.  It encourages peer interaction and social collaboration.

Here’s wotworks for us in the classroom.


Persuade learners to listen to each other by asking for summaries of what has just been said, or pick out one important point from a discussion.  Ask learners to feedback to each other – they use language which is usually understood by their peers.  If you are interested to find out more about dialogic teaching why not visit Professor Robin Alexander”s website at http://www.robinalexander.org.uk  His current research can be viewed at http://www.cprtrust.org.uk/research/classroom-talk/

Accountable Talk

Lauren Resnick discusses “accountable talk”.  This is where learners are encouraged to interact socially through collaborative learning where they discuss ideas with each other and build upon responses. You can watch an interview with her below.

If you want to know more about the work on accountable talk visit the University of Pittsburgh’s website at http://ifl.pitt.edu/index.php/educator_resources/accountable_talk

Here’s wotworks for us but you can adapt questions to suit your learners.

Pupil Responses

When learners are discussing work, encourage them to answer by saying:

I noticed that …

I wonder …

I was confused …

This reminds me of …

I predict that …

I did not like …

Teacher Comments

When you comment on learners’ work, do not use too many comments.  Why not start with:

I agree because …

Why do you think that …

Can you tell me more about …

Can you explain that another way …

Thinking Together

Neil Mercer’s research has been a project called Thinking Together, created with Lyn Dawes, Karen Littleton and Rupert Wegerif.  This research has been shown to improve learner’s skills in communicating, learning and reasoning.  There is a really useful document about ground rules for exploratory talk which you may find works in the classroom when learners work together.




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